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Bridging the great divide

PREETI ZACHARIAH
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CHAT Women’s issues in India are the trigger for Kishwar Desai to put her pen to paper

Addressing gender imbalanceKishwar DesaiPhoto: V.V. Krishnan
Addressing gender imbalanceKishwar DesaiPhoto: V.V. Krishnan

Kishwar Desai has no qualms about expressing her thoughts. “I don’t think there is anything wrong in calling myself a feminist, even my husband (economist and politician Lord Meghnad Desai) calls himself one,” she says, adding, “Anyone who believes in equality between men and women is a feminist. And all of us should be feminist in that sense.” Kishwar, a former journalist, certainly lives by what she professes. Her award-winning series of novels deals largely with gender issues including rape, female infanticide and surrogacy in India. According to Kishwar, “My books are based on real situations. I am trying to make a change through my novels. All these books are written with anger. Each time I pick up these issues, like any other woman in India, I get extremely angry. We are sitting on a time bomb. There is increasing sexual and gender violence and women are becoming marginalised in India.”

Factors for imbalance

She believes that the gender imbalance in Indian society is an outcome of several socio-economic factors prevalent in it. “There is a high level of frustration in our society and violence increases because of that. The problem cannot be solved just by saying that there has to be proper laws. There is also a need for proper implementation of these laws. Also, some sort of social conditioning has to take place and that is unfortunately not happening. We do not have the set-up to deal with the kind of psychological and social messages that need to go out.”

She firmly believes that the message can be communicated through portals such as art, cinema, literature and media, “I think it is the duty of all creative people to address these issues,” she says.

Simran Singh, the protagonist of her series, goes about dispelling these notions. She smokes, she drinks, she has multiple partners yet she is a social worker-cum-amateur detective who relentlessly serves the cause of justice and makes a difference.

And that makes her a heroine material as far as Kishwar is concerned, “I choose a female protagonist who is different, so that by her own character she brings in a certain change.”

Talking about the latest part of the series, Sea of Innocence which has been released recently, she says, “My book deals with rape and sexual violence and my protagonist is trying to solve a gang rape that happens in Goa. It is based on research that I had done of rape cases that have taken place in India and gone unsolved. There are similarities in most rape cases in India.”

In addition to her Simran Singh series she has also written a biography titled Darlingji: The True Love Story of Nargis and Sunil Dutt. Talking about it, she says, “My husband wanted to write a book on Nargis and we started writing it together. We then realised that one couldn’t write on Nargis, without writing about Sunil Dutt. Then my husband got busy so I ended up writing the book myself. It is essentially a story of mobility in India, Hindu-Muslim love and how a family can survive and do well for themselves. I simply loved it.”

She is working on another biography, one on the actor Devika Rani which is set for release next year. And though the collaboration with her husband on the book didn’t really happen, Kishwar admits that he is her biggest supporter when it comes to her writing.

PREETI ZACHARIAH

Anyone who believes in equality between men and women is a feminist. And all of us should be feminist in that sense. We all need to fight for equal rights for men and women

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